فصل 09

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9 I had a new suit and a small velvet hat. My mother said everyone wears new clothes for the Jewish holidays. It was hot for October and my father said he remembered it was always hot on the Jewish holidays when he was a kid. I had to wear white gloves. They made my hands sweat. By the time I got to New York the gloves were pretty dirty so I took them off and stuffed them into my pocketbook. Grandma met me at our usual spot in the bus terminal and took me in a taxi to her temple.

We got there at ten-thirty. Grandma had to show a card to an usher and then he led us to our seats which were in the fifth row in the middle. Grandma whispered to the people sitting near her that I was her granddaughter Margaret. The people looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. I was glad when the rabbi stepped out on the stage and held up his hands. While this was going on soft organ music played. I thought it sounded beautiful. The rabbi was dressed in a long black robe. He looked like a priest except he didn’t have on the backwards collar that priests wear. Also, he had a little hat on his head that Grandma called a yarmulke.

The rabbi welcomed us and then started a lot of things I didn’t understand. We had to stand up and sit down a lot and sometimes we all read together in English from a prayer book. I didn’t understand too much of what I was reading. Other times the choir sang and the organ played. That was definitely the best part. Some of the service was in Hebrew and I was surprised to see that Grandma could recite along with the rabbi.

I looked around a lot, to see what was going on. But since I was in the fifth row there wasn’t much for me to see, except the four rows in front of me. I knew it wouldn’t be polite to actually turn my head and look behind me. There were two big silver bowls filled with white flowers up on the stage. They were very pretty.

At eleven-thirty the rabbi made a speech. A sermon, Grandma called it. At first I tried very hard to understand what he was talking about. But after a while I gave up and started counting different colored hats. I counted eight brown, six black, three red, a yellow and a leopard before the rabbi finished. Then we all stood up again and everyone sang a song in Hebrew that I didn’t know. And that was it! I expected something else. I don’t know what exactly. A feeling, maybe. But I suppose you have to go more than once to know what it’s all about.

As we filed out of the aisles Grandma pulled me to one side, away from the crowd. “How would you like to meet the rabbi, Margaret?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I really wanted to get outside.

“Well, you’re going to!” Grandma smiled at me. “I’ve told him all about you.”

We stood in line waiting to shake hands with the rabbi. After a long time it was our turn. I was face to face with Rabbi Kellerman. He was kind of young and looked a little like Miles J. Benedict Jr. He wasn’t skinny though.

Grandma whispered to me, “Shake hands, Margaret.”

I held out my hand.

“This is my granddaughter, Rabbi. The one I told you about… Margaret Simon.”

The rabbi shook my hand. “Yes, of course. Margaret! Good Yom Tov.”

“Yes,” I said.

The rabbi laughed. “It means Happy New Year. That’s what we’re celebrating today.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, Happy New Year to you Rabbi.”

“Did you enjoy our service?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “I just loved it.”

“Good-good.” He pumped my hand up and down some more. “Come back any time. Get to know us, Margaret. Get to know us and God.”

I had to go through the third degree when I got home.

“Well,” my mother said. “How was it?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Did you like it?” she asked.

“It was interesting,” I said.

“Did you learn anything?” my father wanted to know.

“Well,” I said. “In the first five rows there were eight brown hats and six black ones.”

My father laughed. “When I was a kid I used to count feathers on hats.” Then we laughed together.

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I’m really on my way now. By the end of the school year I’ll know all there is to know about religion. And before I start junior high I’ll know which one I am. Then I’ll be able to join the Y or the Center like everybody else.

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